Voters Guides‎ > ‎Archives‎ > ‎

West Windsor-Plainsboro Regional School Board 2003

2003 SCHOOL BOARD CANDIDATES VOTERS GUIDE

NON-PARTISAN ELECTION INFORMATION

Vote Tuesday, April 15, 2003

CANDIDATES FOR WEST WINDSOR-PLAINSBORO REGIONAL SCHOOL BOARD

Polls are open in West Windsor and Plainsboro from 7 AM to 9 PM
The League of Women Voters of the Princeton Area is a nonpartisan, non-profit volunteer organization which works to promote active, informed participation of all citizens in their government. The League provide nonpartisan information on public issues, and takes action on issues after member study and consensus. In publishing this material, the League neither endorses nor rejects the views of any candidate quoted.
All candidate information in this guide was compiled from candidates' responses to questionnaires. Replies are printed in the candidates' own words, without editing or verification. Due to space limitation, the candidates were given a word limit for replies.
Reprinting of this guide in part or in whole is not permissible without written permission of the League of Women Voters of the Princeton Area.
Copyright 2003 by the League of Women Voters of the Princeton Area
The League of Women Voters of the Princeton Area submitted the following five questions to all candidates for West Windsor-Plainsboro Regional School Board:
1. Why are you running for a seat on the Board of Education?
2. Please describe a framework for future evaluations of past decisions of the school board, such as the recent approval of the new high school schedule. How will major decisions be evaluated? What will indicate their successes or failures? Who will make those determinations?
3. Past school boards made commitments for two independent high schools and for equity between them. What measures would you take to ensure equity between High Schools North and South?
4. What framework would you favor for crafting school budgets? How do you determine where cuts can be made, while maintaining program quality?

5. For a school district faced with continued enrollment growth, what guidelines would you use in future redistricting of students? 

SCHOOL BOARD CANDIDATES FROM PLAINSBORO

Term: 3 years
Select Two

Dee Dee Dodson (incumbent)
Address: 12 Franklin Drive, Plainsboro, NJ 08536

Occupation: 
Stay-at-Home Mom

Education: 
BA in Telecommunications

Significant Community Activities: Board member for the past three years.

Responses to Questions:
1. I have been actively involved in the district for 15 years in various roles and have two children who have been in six (soon to be seven) of the schools. This gives me a broad overview of the district. In addition, I have gained valuable experience during my first term as a member of the Board of Education. While outside experience can provide useful knowledge and skills, learning the history, personalities, and process of district decision-making requires a great deal of on-the-job training and is a necessary element in becoming effective.
To be honest, I had never intended to serve more than one term on the Board. It is an incredible commitment, not only for the board member, but for his or her entire family. The district is facing great change over the next year or so, and it needs the insight of experienced board members who will provide continuity during this critical period. With that in mind, and with the support of my family, I have decided to run for another term.

2. Certain mechanisms are in place to evaluate board decisions. For instance, the County reviews our Local Professional Development Plan, the State assesses our Special Education Program, and an auditor reviews our financial status each year. In addition, the Board arranges for curriculum evaluations on a five-year cycle and receives a breakdown of test scores every October. These are just some of the reports that come before the Board and they are useful assessment tools.
The Board and Administration work together to evaluate decisions. The Administration runs the day-to-day operation of the schools, but the Board, at any time, can request information on how a program or process is working and can make changes, usually through policy, as deemed necessary. 

3. Maintaining equity is an ongoing process and a district goal. At board meetings and in committee, I can recall asking questions about equity during discussions on the Program of Studies, the new high school schedule, standardized test scores, class size, field trips, and the budget, to name a few. I will continue to look at board decisions with an eye toward equity, not just between the two high schools, but among ALL the district's schools.

4. The Administration recommends cuts within budget guidelines set by the Board. I am satisfied with the current method and voted in favor of the guidelines.

5. Redistricting is probably one of the most difficult and complex topics the Board ever faces. There are no easy answers. I am satisfied with the parameters used for the last redistricting on the K-12 level. Ideally, I would keep students closer to home and in the same school for as long as possible, but there are many factors to consider, not the least of which is limited space.
 
Anthony J. (Tony) Kosar
Address: 102 Parker Road South, Plainsboro, NJ

Occupation:
Associate Professor; Music Composition, History, and Theory Department; Westminster Choir College of Rider University

Education:
B.Mus. in Music Theory and Composition, West Liberty State College (1977);
M.Mus. in Music Theory & Composition, Southern Illinois University (1978);
Ph.D. in Music Theory, The Ohio State University (1984)

Significant Community Activities: 
Most of my community activities have been as a supporting parent. I spent one season coaching a Little League team (CPLL Mets, 2001), but I have attended nearly every baseball game, softball game, football game, and basketball game in which my children played. I have supported my kids through Girl Scouts, Cub Scouts, and Boy Scouts, occasionally accompanying them on campouts. I have also been active in various activities at Queenship of Mary Catholic Church, including serving as a teacher in the Religious Education Program since 1992, serving as a Eucharistic Minister, and being a charter member of Knights of Columbus, Council 12004.

Responses to Questions:
1. My family moved to Plainsboro in 1990 to live in the West Windsor-Plainsboro School District. I have four children in three district schools, and I am very happy with the education they are receiving. I am running for a seat on the Board of Education because I am interested in maintaining the educational excellence of our schools and pursuing areas in which we can improve. I believe my nineteen years as a professional educator will allow me to make a positive contribution. I served on the Curriculum Committee at Westminster Choir College when the college undertook a major undergraduate curriculum revision, and I have been active in the graduate curriculum revision. I have participated on both university-wide and college-wide academic policy committees, serving one year as chair of the University Academic Policy Committee. I served on the Executive Committee of the Rider University Chapter of the American Association of University Professors (the faculty union), including one year as chapter president. Since I have represented the bargaining unit on the past three union negotiating teams, I bring first-hand experience in collective bargaining. I have also held administrative positions at Westminster Choir College, including Acting Associate Dean, Acting Registrar, and Assistant Registrar.

2. Any decisions presented to the Board for a change in either the school schedule or curriculum should be accompanied by a rationale containing specific goals and the methodology to achieve those goals. This rationale can serve as the basis for evaluating the effectiveness of the change. I would expect to rely heavily on the experts-the teaching faculty, the faculty area coordinators, and the administration-to help assemble the appropriate tools to evaluate the success or failure of a particular decision. If a decision is deemed a failure because the goals are not achieved, we must determine whether the decision, the goals, the methodology, or the evaluative tool created the problem.

3. While honoring the commitment to maintain equity between the two high schools, a commitment that I feel is proper, we should realize that it is impossible to make two distinct schools completely alike. The School Board should ensure that all students have the same opportunities-curricular, co-curricular, and extra-curricular-regardless of the school they attend.

4. I believe that educational interests should drive the budget rather than the budget drive the educational decisions. We should determine what resources are necessary to maintain the current programs and what resources are necessary to expand and/or improve programs. Since we will never have unlimited resources, we should then prioritize these educational needs. Any new programs or improvements to current programs that cannot be immediately funded should be part of medium- to long-range planning, in order to find the funds needed to implement them.

5. One of the strengths of our school district is the ethnic and racial diversity. To the extent possible, I would want to maintain that diversity at every school, while preserving proper class sizes, and, for schools with fourth graders and above, combining students from both Plainsboro and West Windsor.
 
Henry J. Wieck (incumbent)
Address: 31 Parker Road, Plainsboro, NJ 08536

Occupation: President, Polygenesis Corporation (a technology development company)

Education:
BS, MA, City University of New York;
Ph.D., Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey

Significant Community Activities:
Math - Science Day Presenter (Wicoff School),
Boy Scouts of America (14 years as an Adult leader, including 5 years as Cub Master, Pack 759), 
Knights of Columbus.

Responses to Questions:
1. The education of our children is a responsibility and an investment I take very seriously. As a scientist, businessman and former college professor I have seen first hand the strengths and weaknesses of the educational system. I can bring perspective, logic and analytical skills to the Board. I can foster a spirit of cooperation between the Board, new superintendent, public, staff and students to lift the district to new heights of achievement.

2. Initially, the Board needs to monitor the implementation of any program change to insure that the Board's intent is appropriately reduced to action. This can be accomplished by a report to the Board by administrative staff or a select committee (similar to the committee formed around the schedule change), followed by public discussion involving stakeholders. This should be done at a forum or round table, rather then have it obscured within busy Board meetings. Once the change has been successfully implemented it needs to be monitored on an ongoing basis, using the same type of stakeholder involvement. Ultimately, success is reflected in the continued or improved performance of our students and quality of their educational experience.

3. Equity between the two high schools requires action in a number of areas. First, maintenance. South is an older facility and requires additional effort. Items, like the leaking roof, should have already been fixed, having been funded. We need to monitor approved projects. The district needs to identify and pursue these items as priorities. Second, facilities upgrade. We need to identify those facilities, which limit the delivery of our educational programs, such as laboratory, practice and core facilities. Upgrades need to be identified, quantified, prioritized, planned and strategies developed for funding. Without this type of planning, we will continue to experience the frustration of inaction. Third, the delivery of educational program. We need to insure that regardless which high school a student attends, that they can obtain the most appropriate educational experience. We need to monitor the delivery of programs, and performance, to insure that this is indeed the case.

4. I am quite disappointed and frustrated with the current process. The Board provides guidelines and a numerical budget goal to the administration, but the process is dominated by the numerical budget goal. The Board then reacts to the implications of the budget goal. The Board needs to set expectations with regard to delivery of services. The administration then needs to craft the most efficient budget, meeting those expectations. There are too many "stealth" program decisions made in the rush of the budget season. Program decisions should to be made independent of the budget process.

5. To the extent possible the district should use the assignment of new housing developments, rather than redistricting, to accommodate continued enrollment growth. Redistricting should be used only as a last resort. Redistricting is a disruptive event for both students and the community. If other alternatives are not available, a redistricting plan should be developed, in an inclusive fashion. The number of affected students should be minimized.

Liyou Yang
Address: 3 Barley Court, Plainsboro, NJ 08536

Occupation:
Scientist and Technical Manager

Education:
Ph.D. in Physics

Significant Community Activities: 
Taught special science classes and made cultural demonstrations to district students;
Resource Committee member for the district's G&T Program;
Served as the Principal and teacher at Plainsboro Chinese School;
Deputy General Principal of HuaXia Chinese Schools, which encompass New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania;
Vice President of Central Jersey Chinese American Association

Responses to Questions:
1. Our town has a renowned education system due to the relentless efforts of the community over the past few decades. However, I have noticed certain aspects that warrant significant improvement. For example, the Board can establish a more effective working process, a more accountable decision-making process, and more effective channels of communication among all involved. This represents a great challenge to all of us, especially to the School Board. I believe that with my dedication to community service, my educational background, and my management experience, I can significantly contribute to the Board, and together with other members, make our school district even better.

2. I believe future evaluations of major decisions are essential and should be built into the decision-making process. When the Board is considering a major proposal, its impact (both positive and negative) should be turned into measurable targets for future evaluation. The Board should turn down any proposal of which the purported benefits are deemed not assessable. The major benefit of the new High School Schedule is supposed to come from the longer class period. Thus, we should measure its impact on the quality of education. Also important to assess is the impact on student attendance, lunch, custodial cost, etc. If we only presume there are benefits but are not prepared to measure them, are we making the right decision?

3. I agree with the commitments made by the past School Boards. The current Board handles this issue successfully by ensuring identical programs at both high schools and by carefully balancing the socioeconomic characteristics of the student populations. While these efforts seem to be effective, the equity status should be evaluated periodically. If significant imbalance is noticed, the cause should be analyzed, and corrective actions taken. In the long run, the district should take steps to eliminate the shortcomings of High School South's facilities.

4. In addition to setting general guidelines for constructing school budgets, I believe that the budget process should include mechanisms for eliminating ineffective programs. One such mechanism is to identify a certain percentage of the district's least effective programs, e.g. the bottom 5%. After a thorough review of those programs, along with any new proposed programs, the Board would then determine which of the programs should be eliminated. We must be able to cut less effective programs in order to introduce new ones and make progress in our pursuit of excellence in education. Providing balanced educational opportunities for all students - the gifted, those of special needs, and the middle majority - should always be considered in making budget decisions.

5. I support the current concept of neighborhood schools at the elementary level and mixed student populations at secondary schools. Ensuring equity at secondary schools is important and requires careful balancing of the socioeconomic characteristics in the redistricting plan. A less important guideline should be to minimize the time required for students to travel to and from the school whenever possible, which reduces wasted time and saves district's transportation costs.

SCHOOL BOARD CANDIDATES FROM WEST WINDSOR

Term: 3 years
Select One

Jane Batt
Address: 6 Lake View Court, West Windsor, New Jersey 08550

Occupation:
Retired

Education:
BA in Business  Adelphi University
Certified RPA

Significant Community Activities:
President PTS  Maurice Hawk
President PTSA  Thomas R. Grover Middle School
Member of Site Base Committee  GMS
Various other committees and fund raisers
President of the Board  Family Support Organization  Mercer County

Responses to Questions:
1. I believe I can add value to the seat. These are interesting times and I think not being tied to any past board decisions gives me an opportunity to view things from a new perspective. I am a veteran of the community and a fair representative of my constituents. My background and experiences are a good fit. I'm a team player and I believe in the power of communication and cooperation.

2. A framework for future evaluations of past board decisions should be driven by the district goals and objectives and mission statement. Benchmarks of success or failure should be apparent through student test scores vs. state averages and the high percentage of children being accepted into colleges annually. Decisions will ultimately be made by the board but should be the culmination of a district wide consensus.

3. Equity of schools must be measured by their curriculum and co-curriculum content. Both need to have the same resources available and all the kids should have the same opportunities to realize there greatest potential. The schools need to provide safe and environmentally sound buildings with the latest technology available. To try and define North and South as structural equals is just not possible. They are two very different buildings.

4. Specific and detailed guidelines must be set around our educational philosophy. We should have a list of priorities that depict our absolute needs, wants and wishes. Then we can match dollars to our list. However, the budget is only the plan. What we really need is to keep the people, who are spending the money, energized and focused on finding new ways to cut costs and spend less everyday. If our faculty and administrators do not see this as a priority, it will be impossible to contain costs, let alone reduce them.
This is a district with over a decade of constant growth. We have goals that state we will compensate for the annual increased enrollment, maintain our high standards for education, and allocate ample dollars to our facilities for operating and capital improvements, while simultaneously reducing costs. To me this leans more on the side of a miracle rather than good planning.
One possible way to help this process is zero-based budgeting. To make this an annual process would be too time consuming and costly, but a little spring-cleaning every 5 years is a good thing. Sometimes budgets can tend to take on a life of their own. Money can easily get lost in them. Zero-based budgeting can help clear those dollars out. It may also spark creative new approaches on how to do things differently.

5. Much thought and planning has already gone into this issue. I'm sure those who have labored over this are much more qualified to answer than I am. My only comment would be to ensure that our increasing transportation costs are added into the equation. Possibly a more simplistic approach to redistricting might be helpful. Consolidating as many bus runs as possible may fly in the face of some earlier assumptions but I believe it may be necessary to contain costs.

 
Stan Katz (incumbent)
Address: 7 Rumford Way, West Windsor, NJ 08550

Occupation: Semi-retired Member, American Stock Exchange

Education:
Ph.D., Univ. of Pennsylvania (Applied Economics), 1970
B.A., Johns Hopkins University (Economics), 1966

Significant Community Activities: 
Former member, West Windsor Cable TV Advisory Comm., 1987-96.
Chairman, West Windsor Cable TV Refranchising Comm., 1988-92.
School District Committees prior to becoming a Board Member:
Member, Strategic Planning Committee
Member, 2005 Committee
Member, Technology Committee
Member, Science Curriculum Committee
Co-chair, Community Referendum Committee
Member, Fiscal & Administrative Task Force
Member, WW-P Board of Education, Dec. 1996-present.; Chairman, Finance Committee, 1999-present.
Volunteer ice hockey coach, IceLand summer league, 1996-2000
Volunteer lacrosse asst. coach, Lightning Lacrosse, 2001-present
Member, Lightning Lacrosse Board of Directors
Certified Referee, NJILOA
NJSIAA Lacrosse Official

Responses to Questions:
1. Experienced Board members are especially valuable when major changes are coming. I am running because I feel I can help supply vital experience and knowledge that the District will need to tackle three important issues:
First, the Board needs to determine how to handle the student influx from Toll Brothers, which will begin in January 2004. The challenge will be to accommodate these children while minimizing disruption for existing households.
Simultaneously, we will be adjusting to a new Superintendent, and establishing relationships that define how decision-making is shared. The Board always treads a delicate line between letting a new Superintendent 'take charge', and asserting its right to be the policy-making body for the system.
Finally, the District will have to acknowledge that we have several schools needing serious physical overhaul, particularly High School South. Since the current economic climate mitigates against getting a 'renovation referendum' passed, the Board and the new Superintendent will have to make some difficult and timely decisions concerning needed upgrades: what, when, and how to pay for them.

2. Philosophically, I oppose dwelling on evaluating past decisions; I prefer accepting the past as 'given', and concentrating on where we need to go from here. Consequently, I oppose the implied suggestion, that WWP should formalize processes for evaluating past decisions. Rather, let's ask: are we happy with where we are currently, and if not, do we want to change something, and if so, what? Those answers certainly require an understanding of past decisions, but not a formalized evaluation.

3. Physical plant issues excepted, I believe we have succeeded, rather quickly, in creating two extremely equitable educational experiences at North and South; but the phrase 'ensuring equity' embraces all the K-3, 4-5, and middle schools, as well. I don't know what specific measures one takes to ensure equity other than constant vigilance to identify, and respond to, inequities as they appear.

4. As Finance Committee Chair, I support our current process, where we recommend a 'bottom line' and allow the Administration to develop a spending plan for those dollars, with occasional 'oversight' modifications from the Board. Our target incorporates comparisons with other similar districts; hence our current five-year plan to lower inflation-adjusted per-pupil spending by an average of 1% per year.
I personally can't determine where cuts can be made without affecting program quality; in part, that's why I prefer giving administrators a fixed dollar amount, and letting those professionals develop the allocations.
I oppose program-by-program (or 'zero-based') budget-making, because I believe that such a process would lead to unacceptably high budgets. When top private schools spend $25,000 per student and achieve world-class results, it should be obvious that almost any additional spending by WWP could be justified on a cost-benefit basis.

5. My personal top priority in assignment decision-making is minimizing disruption for existing households. Unfortunately, that may create conflicts with other district priorities, such as township balance at the 6-12 levels, and possibly some ethnic imbalances as well. Toll Brothers will almost certainly force the District to re-examine its priorities.

Michael Newman
Address: 4 Hamilton Drive, West Windsor

Occupation: Municipal Investment Banking

Education:
Bachelor of Science in Business Management, Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, Ohio
General Course Diploma in Industrial Relations, The London School of Economics, London, England
Master of Business Administration in Finance, the State University of New York at Albany

Significant Community Activities:
Member of West Windsor's Property Tax Review Task Force
Vice President Princeton View Homeowner's Association 2000  2002
Coach - West Windsor Plainsboro Soccer Association
Coach - West Windsor Little League 1999-2000

Responses to Questions:
1. I am running for a seat due to concerns about the Board's decision-making process. The Board is responsible for insuring the administration develops an educational program to achieve the District's mission. Unfortunately, the Board has often sought to manage, as opposed to govern, the District, thereby negating the knowledge of the professionals hired to run our District. By becoming involved in daily operations, the Board has also lost its ability to conduct long-term planning. Consequently, its decisions primarily address immediate concerns, and are not part of a plan to address the District's long-term challenges.

2. Prior to taking a decision, the Board must specify the objectives to be attained by such decision. This would permit the evaluation of decisions against their achievement of such objectives, and the affects of the means of such achievement. Collectively, the Board, administration, teachers, and public could then evaluate the success or failure of the Board's decisions.

3. It is important to maintain equity between the high schools on the basis of facilities, programs, and enrollment as a percentage of building capacity. Due to the difference in age of the buildings, there is a difference in facilities. There is insufficient money in the budget to finance the elimination of the inequities. However, with interest rates at historic lows, sufficient funds can be found in the budget to satisfy debt service on obligations sold to finance the necessary expenditures to restore facility equity between the schools. The failure to maintain equity may lead to a real or perceived difference in quality between (a) High School-South and Grover Middle School and (b) High School-North and Community Middle School resulting in a preferred "track" causing division within our communities. 

4. I believe the means to control expenditures and maintain program quality is to (i) prioritize the services provided by the District, (ii) review the services to insure their continued usage, and (iii) improve the processes by which such services are provided. While services can be prioritized during construction of a budget, there is insufficient time to review the means through which services are provided to students. We must assess the demand for and benefit of the services the District provides and its means of delivering such services throughout the year. We must seek new means of providing services, while maintaining educational excellence, and cannot be constrained by past practices and ways of thinking.

5. It is critical that the Board develop a long-term plan to address future growth in enrollment, prior to the development of Toll Brothers. Without such a plan, the Board will be continually forced to address crowding issues by redistricting in small increments. The plan should provide for the efficient and equitable use of our buildings, balance within our schools by township and housing stock, and the continued growth within the District. These guidelines (i) allow for consistency between the efficient use of buildings and the redistricting philosophy; and (ii) give both townships a stake in the quality of all schools thereby uniting our District.